School Board takes on job of recruiting superintendent candidates

Board members sketched out a framework for a new search process Tuesday

Minneapolis Board of Education members decided Tuesday to take on the responsibility of recruiting district superintendent candidates themselves.

Board members also agreed on the makeup, but not the membership, of the search team that will sort through the candidates and select up to three finalists for the district’s top job. The team is expected to include nine members: the board’s student representative, up to five people drawn from the community and just three School Board members, a number that falls short of the board’s quorum, allowing the search team’s deliberations to remain private.

The board is also promising a much deeper level of community engagement as it prepares to re-launch the search for Minneapolis Public Schools’ next superintendent. The previous search — conducted last fall and largely managed by executive search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates — crumbled in December and January when news broke of an abuse investigation in the home district of finalist Sergio Páez.

Interim Superintendent Michael Goar was the board’s second choice, but Goar removed himself from consideration in January.

The new process hashed-out by board members over several hours Tuesday evening will require assistance from a search firm, but that firm, which has not been named, will mainly manage the application process. Board members are expected to tap their own professional networks, including links to organizations like the Council of Great City Schools, to recruit applicants.

“If we want an adequate pool there will have to be nine of us activating every network we have,” School Board Chair Jenny Arneson told her colleagues.

A few of them, including Board Members Carla Bates and Josh Reimnitz, expressed concerns about their lack of expertise. But Board Member Nelson Inz noted the publicity around the previous failed search should help.

“I’ll just say at this point it’s not a secret that we’re looking for a superintendent,” Inz said. “We have that going for us.”

The board is also offering candidates a greater level of privacy this time around. It plans to make public only the names of the finalists. Some board members said the openness of the previous search process discouraged applicants who might have feared angering or offending colleagues at their current jobs.

Arneson said the board still aims to name a new superintendent by May. It plans to carry over a leadership profile developed for the previous search, but that outline of desired characteristics may be tweaked based on community input. The board pledged that parents, students, teachers and other community members would play a greater role throughout this new selection process.

In hopes of avoiding the kind of last-minute revelation that sunk Páez’s candidacy, the board aims to hire a firm to conduct investigative background checks of the finalists. A site visit to Páez’s home district in Massachusetts was tacked-on to the end of the previous search, but now that visit is an explicit part of the board’s plan for all finalists.

There’s still work to do.

Board members Rebecca Gagnon and Tracine Asberry took it upon themselves to sketch an outline of just who will be sought to fill the non-board member positions on the search team. They’re expected to report back when the board meets Feb. 23.

At that same meeting, Arneson and Vice Chair Kim Ellison are expected to present a more detailed search timeline.